At the entrance of Tokyo Bay, tucked away amongst the hilly bedrock of the island, is a natural harbor where the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Fleet and the United States 7th Fleet lay at bay. From this little port town of Yokosuka, Japan, the United States projects power into the Asia-Pacific region coupled with its strongest ally. This sea power anchored by the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, also comprises U.S. nuclear submarines, which are unmatched both technically, operationally and generations ahead of their peers in the Pacific. In addition to these formidable mobile platforms of power and extended deterrence are the Aegis Surface Combatant ships, unmatched in their own right, that project multiple forms of force over wide areas on sea, space, air and underwater in their various missions.
In the current times of island making and challenging the status quo in this particular region of the world, it is from this home port in Yokosuka where the USS Lassen (DDG-82) Aegis Destroyer just returned from travelling through international waters in direct opposition of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. It is also from Yokosuka, Japan that these highly demanded U.S. Aegis BMD ships of the 7th Fleet go out to sea to protect the United States homeland, Japan, Hawaii and Guam in prelude to North Korea’s demonstrations of ballistic missile firings intended to threaten the United States and its allies in the region.
Due to the increasing threats from North Korea and China in the Pacific, the demand for these special U.S. Aegis BMD anti cruise missile ships are being increased in the 7th Fleet compared to other U.S. Fleets around the world. Two additional Aegis Baseline 9 Ballistic Missile Defense ships have been assigned to the 7th Fleet, the USS Benfold (DDG-65) and the USS Milius (DDG-69). These two Aegis BMD Baseline 9 ships have a proven capability to engage and launch on remote, shoot down both maneuverable cruise missiles and ballistic missiles simultaneously, and extend their ranges of a defended area.
This same growing threat from North Korea and China has driven the build-up of Japanese Kongo-class BMD Ships to double their current fleet from four to eight, with the newest four being Baseline 9 capable ships that will link into the United States 7th Fleet. Baseline 9 technology will also be the used to operate the upcoming long range SM-3 Block IIA interceptors, co-developed by Japan and the United States. Japan is also considering Aegis Ashore Baseline 9 systems similar to those that will be installed in Romania and Poland to provide persistence and force multiplication. The Republic of Korea, concerned with the same threat, is also considering making its ships Baseline 9 capable and adding additional ships to be part of this team partnership in force projection against common threats.
The strain of increased capacity building of the 7th Fleet to homeport, to manage all the different baselines, the coordination of participating allied fleets provision of necessary ship maintenance in manpower and resources at Yokosuka needs to be addressed and shared with Japan. Japan provides the bulk of costs of Yokosuka for the United States Navy and continues to be the best contributing ally in the Pacific to the United States.
This past Friday, MDAA visited Yokosuka, Japan and had the honor to go on board and visit the Japanese Kongo-class ballistic missile defense capable ship, JSN Kirishima (DDG-174). MDAA also had the honor of visiting sailors from the USS Shiloh (CG-67), which is the BMD cruiser that commands the BMD fight for all the BMD ships with their different baseline configurations in the 7th Fleet.
In this regional Pacific theater in which the biggest militaries in the world operate, including the United States, near peer competitors like China and Russia, along with the rogue threat of a nuclear North Korea, it is a team game to increase maritime partnership capacity and be interoperable with nations like Japan and South Korea. This effort is run by the team leader, the United States Pacific Commander, the United States Pacific Fleet and the United States 7th Fleet.
For our nation, and those of our friends in the Pacific, to be secure in their sovereignty and keep open international waters to trade goods for all to be prosperous, our naval power projection in the Pacific has to increase its capacity and partnerships.
MDAA’s mission is to make the world safer by advocating for the development and deployment of missile defense systems to defend the United States, its armed forces and its allies against missile threats.
MDAA is the only organization in existence whose primary mission is to educate the American public about missile defense issues and to recruit, organize, and mobilize proponents to advocate for the critical need of missile defense. We are a non-partisan membership-based and membership-funded organization that does not advocate on behalf of any specific system, technology, architecture or entity.